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Your Permit to Drive

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Your Permit to Drive

Publication date 1951
Digitizing sponsor General Motors Corporation
Talking driver's license narrates this hymn to the beneficial effects of highways, cars, and driving.


Aerial shot of street with island and parking spaces (West Grand Avenue, Detroit, Michigan, shot right outside General Motors headquarters complex)
CU Motor Vehicle Operators Permit
VS riding down road
CU large wave hitting rocks and spraying upward
VS bodies of water; CU of ship on harbor
Old car driving out of driveway
VS Crowded road

Farm truck coming towards camera
CU Front of Greyhound bus as it is moving
CU Truck driver as he drives
CU Ambulance in motion
CU Policeman, Cab driver,
VS cars driving down roads
CU Car wheel turning

CU truck wheel turning, as it moves away entire view of truck full of animal cages comes into view.
CU New cars in transit, stacked on moving ramp.
Camera pans from parking lot to beach of people, to trailer park, to picnic,

3 people on slide, they slide down into water and Splash!
Boxboy taking groceries out to car with young mother and child.
He packs grocery boxes into trunk

MCU factory and smokestack
Camera pans factory site
MCU DINER FACADE: Richard's Drive-in

Cut to back shot of couple eating in
convertible outside drive-in
MCU Drive-in theater sign lit up: TOWN DRIVE-IN THEATER
Cars driving down street at night/headlights on

CU man driving
Sequence of shots of simulated car accident:
Car approaching truck
CU man swerving steering wheel
CU streetlight
CU face of man turning in surprise
CU woman grabbing her face with her hands
CU flashing traffic light
CU police getting out of police car with flashing siren light

MCU Nurses' station with 2 nurses, man walks up and and hands nurse wallet
CU Nurse opening wallet, looking at ID
CU Woman at filing cabinet, closes file, locks cabinet

CU Operators Permit

Young man in convertible passes cars on the road shoulder
View from driver's seat as car passes foolishly when car is coming in other direction
CU side view of two people in moving car
VS People at Motor Vehicle Bureau desk
CU young girl raising her hand to swear an oath

Aerial shot of cars driving through intersection
VS busy boulevard
VS sports - polo, hockey, basketball,swimming, track, baseball, tennis,
golf, bowling

VS cars driving down street
Convertible turns in front of "wall" of cars as it makes left turn

Policeman writing out ticket as man paces and tries to talk policeman out of ticket
Judge on bench talking to man, hits gavel against stand
CU man arguing to judge
CU gavel hitting stand

CU permits being stamped SUSPENDED, REVOKED

MCU Busy road
CU Man putting arm out window to indicate he is turning, he makes turn
CU woman from neck up, walking and chewing gum, walking with friend and dog
CU camera in driver's seat at red light as crowd crosses street in front of car
View looking down at throng of people crossing street
View looking down at "throng" of cars driving down street
VS/CU people walking down sidewalk, crossing street

Aerial view of cars entering intersection
CU front end of moving car/wheel, side of bumper, headlight

CU traffic light, pans down to car driving
CU STOP sign
Camera in driver's seat as kids running and on bicycles crossing treelined street
CU Man at steering wheel of convertible
VS camera at driver's seat as car moves

CU dented bumper of old car
Camera pans up to 2 men exchanging ID
CU badly dented back end of car, camera pans up to 2 men exchanging ID, then policeman walks into the scene
VS Cars driving and camera in drivers seat.


[Educational Screen, Nov 1951] In this film a driver's license is personified and relates in its own words how important a role the motor vehicle plays in modern life and how to drive it symbolizes both a privilege and an obligation.
The introductory scenes of the film show a driver's license and, as scenes of the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf, and the Great Lakes are shown, the license says, "I am your permit to drive -- your passport to pleasure."
Pleasure cars, trucks, ambulances, police cars, and taxicabs are shown pursuing their individual ways through city streets and along highways. The driver's license says that it is a necessary belonging of the driver and every one of these vehicles and that only as long as the driver obeys the safety regulations will he possess a license.
A serious accident is shown in which the driver's license is the sole means of identification. The license comments on the fact that young drivers are involved in twice as many accidents as older drivers and that they should remember that when they sign a license, they really sign a pledge.
Good driving is compared to observance of the rules of fair play in games. Such driving rules as allowing the right-of-way and staying on the right side of the traffic lines are compared to similar rules in golf and bowling. The license reminds the audience that drivers who are poor sports may have their licenses revoked or suspended.
The film closes by pointing out that the new driver has an opportunity to learn the right way to drive and by urging him to respect the obligations and responsibilities which are implied by his driver's license.

¥ 10:53:58:07- 10:54:09:11
Nice series of leisure shots. Starts with quick pan of a crowded lakeside beach, cut to pan (in the opposite direction of the first) of a camping site where trailers are lined up. We briefly see a woman sitting outside of a tentÑshe turns and looks at the camera. Cut to a pan of two older women and a couple sitting at a picnic table (covered with a checkered cloth). Behind them is their nice trailer.

worth noting: Nice image of a drive-in movie theater in town. (10:54:41:03)

¥ 10:59:17:05- 10:59:34:17
Series of shots of people walking along a city sidewalk. The first is at eye level and the next is from a lower angle (near the ground). The camera switches off with these two perspectives several times. The effect is a "smooth surge of motion" (as the narrator describes the people walking).

Ken Smith sez: This amazing film, designed to brainwash young drivers-to-be, covers many bases at once. First, it enshrines the freedom to drive as something equatable with Liberty and Justice. Second, it portrays driving as a wonderful, liberating thrill; a legal drug. Third, it paints the automotive industry as the indispensable linchpin of the American Way of Life. And fourth, it uses the fifties' big fist of conformity to tell its teen viewers that deviates who disobey highway "rules" will be cast out of society and/or caught and punished severely and/or worse. Not bad for an 11-minute film.
It manages to do all this by showing us a continuous stream of traffic and driving footage, overlaid with a nonstop grandiloquent narration purportedly provided by a talking driver's permit.
"I am your permit to drive an automobile," it begins. "I am only a card in your wallet or purse, yet I unroll before your eyes a magic carpet -- the millions of miles of highways and byways that crisscross the nation." The permit, it adds, is "your passport to pleasure," and Americans must realize that "no matter who they are, no matter where they are, I am with them." Just like liberty and democracy and Jesus, right?
Next comes the General Motors' vision of America, thoughtfully provided for young, impressionable minds. "Our way of living has become geared to the automobile," the permit tells us proudly. "The automobile has brought with it a new way of life, a new standard of living, matched by no other nation in the world" (we see shots of groceries being loaded into the trunk of a shiny convertible). Because of the motorcar, the permit informs us, new industries have been created that "help keep turning the wheels of our national economy" and "add billions to our wealth, providing goods, services, and job opportunities undreamed of only yesterday."
However, this rosy picture also has a dark side. "This year, I will be among the last papers of tens of thousands who will have no further use for me (mostly "18- to 24-year-olds," the permit adds). Over and over I ask myself, why? Is it the supposed thoughtlessness of youth that takes such a toll? Or is it my fault? Have I allowed myself to be -- taken for granted?" The permit is wracked with soul-searching agony. "I am a privilege and an obligation," it cries. "I try to tell people when they write their names across my face that they are signing a pledge -- a pledge to be the kind of driver they want others to be. We owe to each other the courtesy -- the fair play -- each of us expects!"
Next comes the plea for fifties' conformity. "As a nation, we set great store by sportsmanship," the permit declares. "Almost all of us, at some time, play the game." Sadly, the permit notes, our nation's highways have their share of "poor sports." "They are the reckless, who cause the accidents that maim and kill!" it cries. "Offenders, whose invasion of the rights of others may lead to curtailment of their own rights." For emphasis we are shown staged shots of a smug young man in a loud, plaid sport coat having his permit revoked by a judge. "Remember," the permit concludes, "I am your permit to drive, not your right to drive. You are entitled to drive only as long as you abide by the rules."
But the people who sponsored this film have too much riding on the automobile for it to end on such a sour note. "Perhaps the poor driver never learned the proper way to drive," the permit muses. "You have more opportunity than he. You have the opportunity to learn the right way to drive." The high-sounding generalities begin flying fast and furious: "Respect for the rights of others;" "a polite avoidance of contact;" "common sense safety;" "wholehearted cooperation and courtesy."
Finally, the driver's permit offers its concluding peroration, just in case the audience hasn't salivated enough yet about the prospect of driving. "I, your permit to drive, are the 'open sesame' to a lifetime of new experiences. I bring wings to your feet -- a freedom of motion you will learn always to cherish!" In other words, driving is like heroin, and your flag-waving, dream-weaving GM "dealer" is just that.

Safety education Drivers and driving Automobiles Detroit, Michigan (scenes) Rubber stamps Accidents (automobile) Driving (night) Traffic signals Traffic lights Driving safety Automobiles (safety) Drivers licenses Accidents (simulated) Detroit, Michigan (streets) Michigan (roads) Detroit, Michigan (history and culture) Surrealism Hospitals Sirens Lights Ambulances Highways Traffic Streets (city) Cities (U.S.)



Reviewer: JayKay49 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 21, 2015
Subject: Scenes of Detroit in its Heyday
Whatta place! Unbelievable to those under 50. @2:47 is a good shot of ol' Richard's Drive-in. "Home of the Twinburger." On Van Dyke between Outer Dr and 8 Mile Rd. The hangout for teens in my neighborhood during the 50's. Nice shots of Grand Blvd (down the street from GM headquarters) and what appears to be Belle Isle Beach.

I bet a lot of these shots were acquired from Jam Handy, GM's PR agency, down the street from GM headquarters, who have many films on this site. But this one is not credited to JH.

Driving is a privilege not a right. That sure wouldn't fly these days.

Nice scenery and reminescences of a better day. "Nobody enjoys the standard of living we had in the US." And just think, that was when MBA's and college grads in general were rare as hen's teeth.
Reviewer: The_Emperor_Of_Television - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 29, 2013
Subject: Cornball narration...
...but a very nice, enjoyable collection of footage.

...and honestly, that's what I like about these films in the first place.
Reviewer: donwert - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 1, 2010
Subject: Drive Carefully!
Nice little film about the importance of careful driving. All the urban and suburban scenes were filmed in Detroit. Interesting to see how thronged with people and cars downtown Detroit was back in 1951...
Reviewer: vsp - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 15, 2007
Subject: Permit to Drive
This film, although from many years ago is very relevant for today. If people would understand and act like they know how to drive. Very good! I could use this in my driver education classes.
Reviewer: ERD - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 8, 2006
Subject: Good solid film
This film does what it intended, to make the public aware that having a driver's license is a responsibility. Good narration, filming, and direction.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 29, 2005
Subject: Is it me or..
I liked this film, though it¡¯s a shade too long, about how important a driver¡¯s license is, as it gives you permission, not a right, to drive. Liked the POV of this film, as it¡¯s spoken by the license itself, though I have better ideas on how this could have been delivered (The title character should have been animated!). But liked the points that this film offered on what a priveledge it is for the population to be holding one of these, and that this priviledge is often misused. Liked the accident, it had a certain noir quality about it for some odd reason. So, uh, it¡¯s safe to say I liked this film lol
Reviewer: RedAliCat - favoritefavoritefavorite - July 19, 2003
Subject: "Passport To Pleasure"
Vague driver's ed film by GM, narrated by a non-animated driver's permit, that begins with an exposition about how the car enables us to do so many things. Like a teen watching this wouldn't have figured this out already! It then follows with stern warnings about being courteous and following the road rules, yet it never really explains what those things are. Not terribly interesting, since it's a bunch of stock photos including GM cars with no actors/dialogue.
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